jesse hirsh on Sat, 23 Mar 2002 20:51:12 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Re: video games, hacks, and simulations

On Sat, 23 Mar 2002, nettime's_symptomatic_corresponda wrote:

> From: "Steven Meinking" <>
> The Second - Recently, I found myself involved in playing a video game over
> the Internet. Ordinarily, I am not an avid gamer, in fact, I own only five
> computer games, one of which is chess, but playing Diablo II was very
> entertaining and it permitted me time to goof around with my brothers
> through multi-player on the game's Battle.Net. There I discovered some
> amusing, if not disappointing, revelations. The primary revelation being
> that a large amount of the game's players, most likely the majority, would
> rather cheat at the game, than play it straight up.

I'm in a similar situation: as a means of communicating with younger
siblings i have installed and learned how to play the network based
multiplayer game counterStrike[1] (a half-life[2] mod).

counterStrike is a first person shoot-em-up terrorist/counter-terrorist
simulation. Much like the games (starcraft/diablo/warcraft)
counterStrike has its own social hiearchy numbering in the tens of
thousands (if not hundreds).

As a sysadmin, i'm quite familiar with the power of root, and whenever i
approach any computer environment my first question is always where/what
is the god chair. With less legal troubles than battlenet[3], the cstrike
server is easy to download[4] and install, assuming of course you had a
server (windows/linux). The client only runs on windows (although wine
could prolly pull it off) and is not free (if you don't have an internet

With a bunch of kids, aged maybe 10 - 15, and another sibling at 18, we
setup a server, clan, and played semi-regularly. Within five minutes of
being online we'd start getting outside connections, and if you played for
more than an hour, it was easy to get a full (8x8, 12x12) game.

Of course, that's when you start to get people cheating and using "hacks".
Which to clarify are client-based, not server. counterStrike is very much
a shared hallucination like the mushes back in the day. Clients can be
tricked by other clients into believing somethings are not as they may be.

Which kind of gave me an idea. First I installed csGuard[5], which scans
the hard drives of any client connecting to the server (they are windoze
after all, and it does explain this to them in a clear warning before they
connect). This ensures that any player connecting does not use any cheats
that are in the csguard database. If someone does connect, and they have
cheats on their hard drive, a warning will appear in the corner of each
person's screen, and the client with contraband code is automatically
kicked and banned. Many players in the counterStrike world use filters in
their clients to only find servers running csGuard and other anti-cheat

However once the client enters the server, they encounter an entire
(constructed) universe that they were not expecting and do not always
detect. This is what has become the sub-plot of my brothers' and my
counterStrike server: realistic and responsive bots[6].

I've taken enough undergraduate cognitive science courses and had two
fathers who were psychologists to know how easy it is to use language to
play tricks on people. So instead of running counterStrike bots with the
language packs that they come with (that make them obvious bots), I've
logged and re-integrated languaged used on the server by gamers into the
language packs used by the bots. Now just to be clear, in terms of skill
level, the bots are often better than humans, and other than
responsiveness and language, they are otherwise indistinguishable.

I mean in terms of bots they're not too bad. In fact the 13 year old who
uses this environment the most, he loves the levels of controls available
with the bots. From his client he's able to create, destroy, assign, and
configure bots in the game. Armed with the ever evolving language pack,
while also correlated off a list of realistic names, the bots become real
human beings as far as any of the "guest" players are concerned.

Often I've left the simulator running all night, starting it up with only
8 bots and no humans. Usually, by an hour, 90 minutes later, the bots and
humans are involved in a full game, exhibiting all sorts of behaviour that
comes from playing the archetypes of "terrorist" and "counter-terrorist".

I've got one of those tv cards on this particular pc workstation, and my
intention is to output it to vhs and start cutting tapes of semi-staged
simulations. At a time of war it acts as an icredible lense into this
particular culture (of violence) and the way that these children
(essentially) and otherwise affluent/priviliged members of industrialized
society explore this particular phenomena (of violence).


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